Something I Don't Get About The FBI's Alfa Bank Hoax Investigations
Am I Misunderstanding Something?
Let me start by saying, It’s still all about the predication.
The second thing I want to point out is that my title deliberately uses the word “investigations”. It appears to me, unless I’ve misunderstood something, that the FBI had two investigations into the same factual matter—the Sussmann/Joffe Alfa Bank Hoax material: One in New York, and one in Chicago.
Let me first set out an account of the testimony in this regard at the trial, taken from:
Scott Hellman, currently an FBI supervisory special agent leading a team investigating cybercrime, said he and a supervisor retrieved the thumb drives and other information passed to the FBI the day after the Baker-Sussmann meeting, reviewed the secret communication claims, and quickly rejected them.
The Baker-Sussmann meeting took place on 9/19/2016. Therefore “the day after” is 9/20/2016. Hellmann was, at the time, in the FBI’s New York Office (NYO). It made sense for FBIHQ to refer this matter to the NYO, since Trump Tower is located in New York City. My assumption is that the NYO opened a Full Field Investigation (FFI) to cover their investigation into this matter—the NYO would not be authorized to conduct the investigation that they did conduct without some sort of open case file. The investigation would have been predicated on Sussmann’s presentation to Baker. However, I haven’t seen the opening electronic communication (EC) which should have been generated by the NYO. Therefore I don’t know how the referral from FBIHQ to the NYO was presented. However, Hellmann does state that a “narrative … had been pushed.”
Hellman said the Alfa-Bank allegations included “technical data” such as website names and domain names as well as a “narrative” about the conclusions reached by the creators of the report “based on their analysis of the data.” Hellman said he and his then-supervisor, Nate Batty, conducted an analysis and then compared the FBI’s assessment of the data to the narrative that had been pushed.
Hellman said the allegations claimed there was a “secret communications channel” between the Trump Organization and Alfa-Bank, and he said his analysis with Batty rejected this after roughly a day.
The conclusion that was reached “after roughly a day” brings us up to 9/21-22/2016. This investigation was a big deal, so you can bet that it was expedited:
The prosecution entered into evidence an analysis summary that Hellman and Batty wrote within a day of looking at the data, in which they assessed “the research conducted in the report reveals some questionable investigative steps taken and conclusions drawn.”
Here’s where things get confusing.
The FBI agent [Hellmann] said his document was drafted and then sent to the FBI’s office in Chicago for a “special investigation” there. He said he believes FBI Chicago then opened an investigation.
Hellman said he had “no involvement in the investigation” but had brief conversations with some agents in Chicago, and “Chicago had looked at the data further and they agreed with our assessment … that there was no secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russia.”
I’ve seen the opening EC written by FBI Chicago. It’s dated 9/23/2016—so, after the NYO did their investigation and wrote up their negative assessment. There are a number of weird things about this.
First, What’s a “special investigation?” I never heard of such a thing. Does Hellmann mean that he asked FBI Chicago to conduct further investigation based on some Trump/Alfa nexus located in Chicago? I understand that. That would be called an Auxiliary Office (AO) lead, handled by Chicago.
Second, FBI Chicago opened their investigation as a FFI. I get that—but, as an administrative matter, that’s a totally different thing from an AO investigation. In such a situation NYO would remain the Office of Origin (OO) and Chicago would report back to the NYO. Chicago would not be opening an FFI in such a case. Note what Hellmann says. He says that he “believes FBI Chicago then opened an investigation.” That has to mean that he “believes” that FBI Chicago opened an investigation separate from the referral from the NYO. And that appears to be reflected in FBI Chicago’s opening EC.
Third, FBI Chicago’s opening EC, dated 9/23/2016, states that the predication for their FFI is derived from a referral from DoJ—not from the NYO. In other words, the predication supposedly is not derived from the Baker-Sussmann meeting—instead, it supposedly comes from some super secret DoJ source. The real source, as we have learned, appears to have been some sort of collusion between Sussmann and Bruce Ohr at DoJ. And yet the subject matter of the investigation is identical to that which FBIHQ referred to the NYO on 9/20/2016.
This is all very puzzling—if you’re trying to put an innocent interpretation on this chain of events. Here’s what it looks like.
It looks like FBIHQ referred the Sussmann hoax material to the NYO—a logical step. NYO jumped all over the referral and within a day told FBIHQ that it looked like complete bullshit, but that there was some aspect that they were referring to FBI Chicago. That means that, as far as the NYO was concerned, the case was complete, except for a bit of tidying up by FBI Chicago. The NYO FFI would shortly be closed.
This turn of events seems to have been unsatisfactory to high officials at FBIHQ—they actively wanted an open FFI on Trump and they didn’t want cyber agents closing the FFI just because the predication looked totally bogus. There appears to have been some scrambling between FBIHQ and DoJ and the same material was sent on an expedited basis to FBI Chicago with the direction that a FFI be opened—recall, Hellmann said that he “believes” FBI Chicago opened an investigation. There is no suggestion that I’m aware of that FBIHQ had any reason to believe that the NYO had somehow screwed up. That being the case, and given that the NYO’s conclusion had destroyed any predication for a FFI, this looks like a politically motivated manipulation of the FBI’s powers. A fraudulent investigation, for the purpose of maintaining an open FFI targeting Trump and Russia. I would maintain that at the FBI only two people could have pulled that off in cooperation with DoJ: Jim Comey and/or Andy McCabe. McCabe would have had to be involved; the only question is whether he would have done this behind Comey’s back. As for DoJ, there’s a similar question: Would Bruce Ohr have engaged in this on his own initiative, or would he have consulted one or more of the very few people above him?
As things developed, FBI Chicago came to the same conclusion as the NYO, after independently examining the exact same data. The only difference is that FBI Chicago took a bit more time. In any event, that seems to have stymied FBIHQ.
If this is what happened, the implications are rather stunning. It would mean that Durham is very close to a major conspiracy case based on an abuse of investigative authority by the FBI/DoJ and involving the very top level of management
Maybe I’ve misunderstood something in the facts. If so, I’d love to hear from somebody who can correct me.